The gastrointestinal system is one of the largest and most complicated systems that exist in the human body. One classically views the gastrointestinal system as a long hollow organ twisting its way from mouth to anus partitioning into the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine otherwise known as the colon. The solid organs that support digestion include the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas which not only supplement digestive juices but provide a myriad of other functions. Fundamentally, the gastrointestinal system is a collection of organs designed to breakdown food into smaller absorbable nutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and their accompanying vitamins, elements, and minerals. The esophagus acts as a conduit to the stomach and when food reaches the stomach it is churned and partially digested into chyme. A fraction of the stored chyme is then carefully emptied into the small intestine at precise amounts. The majority of digestion and absorption occurs in the small intestine which at length reaches 25 feet and when stretched out occupies a surface area the size of a tennis court! The end of the digestive tract which includes the colon reaching 5 feet in length provides the body a means of reabsorbing water and releasing non-absorbable food and waste through stool.
Research the last few decades has revealed that an intricate system of bacteria, nerves, and hormones work in unison to control digestion and maintain the body’s balance of water and electrolytes. In fact, there are more bacteria in our gut than there are human cells! Within the approximately one hundred trillion bacteria that occupy the gastrointestinal lumen is a balance of good versus bad – hence the emerging use of prebiotics, probiotics, and antibiotics. Similar in complexity to our gut flora is the gastrointestinal nervous system which equals in number the amount of nerves found in the spinal cord! As our understanding of the innervation of the gastrointestinal system unfolds novel medications have been designed to alter motility, secretion, and overall sensation. Hormones complement bacteria and nerves in regulating the gastrointestinal system. Hormones act as conductors for the symphony of digestion. Unfortunately, the types and their activities are not completely known but as we tease out their function our understanding of appetite, satiety, and obesity will become more clear and provide an avenue for future treatments.
As you can see beneath the gastrointestinal system lays a complexity that gastroenterologists are only now beginning to understand. When this system goes awry a variety of symptoms and disorders emerge. Our qualified doctors are able to navigate your digestive symptoms, diagnose your condition, and provide the most up-to-date, effective treatment. The most common symptoms are highlighted in the following pages including indigestion and heartburn, abdominal pain, bleeding and anemia, constipation and diarrhea, hemorrhoids. Other digestive complaints include non-cardiac chest pain, rectoanal pain, fecal incontinence, regurgitation, vomiting, weight loss, early satiety, loss of appetite, troubled or painful swallowing, and jaundice among others. The primary disorders that our doctors manage include those that affect the esophagus, stomach, intestine, and colon. They also have experience in managing diseases of other gastrointestinal organs including the liver, bile duct system, gallbladder, and pancreas. Please visit us to determine the cause of your symptoms and begin management of your gastrointestinal disorder.
This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider regarding your medical condition.